Radical APUSH Course Fails Students and U.S.
David Coleman, the architect of Common Core who is now the president of the College Board, has again slipped a revision of education under the radar and into U.S. schools. The new AP U.S. History (APUSH) course, which is being taught to sophomore and junior high school students this fall, is possibly even more dangerous than Common Core standards. Many hope the program will swiftly be jettisoned from schools.
Stanley Kurtz states, “The College Board, the company that issues the SAT and the various Advanced Placement (AP) exams, has created an elaborate new framework for the AP U.S. History Exam that will effectively force nearly all American high schools, public and private, to transform the way they teach U.S. History.” Kurtz says, “The traditional emphasis on America’s founders and the principles of constitutional government will soon be jettisoned in favor of a left-leaning emphasis on race, gender, class, ethnicity, etc.” (National Review, 7-10-14)
Several who have examined the new framework report that it fails to mention Benjamin Franklin, James Madison, Thomas Jefferson, and Martin Luther King Jr. The only inclusion of George Washington is his Farewell Address.
National Association of Scholars (NAS) Pres. Peter Wood says important patriots are purposely “left out because they don’t fit with the story the architects of APUSH wish to tell.” He says the new APUSH presents “the history of the United States [as a] history of expropriation, imposed suffering, forced labor, exploitation, environmental heedlessness, class oppression, racism, sexism, and the rule of the privileged few over everyone else.”
The new course also violates state laws that require a balanced teaching of the history of the nation. It imposes what Peter Wood calls: “[A]n American history curriculum that views the European settlement of North America as mainly an act of dispossession of the native peoples followed by many further acts of oppression.” (Minding the Campus, 8-19-14)
NAS’s Wood calls the revised APUSH “radical” in what the course tells teachers to teach and in the loss of flexibility that was previously offered to teachers. Gone is the five-page course outline that allowed teachers to choose materials and to insert their own insight. It is replaced by what is called a “framework,” but is actually 120 pages of curriculum. The College Board denies that it is a curriculum, but every historical timeframe and every theme addressed in the new course is done so from the point of view of liberal, revisionist, grievance-based historians like Howard Zinn, author of A Peoples’ History of the United States. A practice exam released by the College Board proves that the test follows the same revisionist themes. Students will not pass the exam unless they give answers aligned with the way the curriculum is slanted.
The danger presented by the new APUSH is immense because of what students will be taught, as well as what they will not be taught. Students will not learn that the founding of the U.S. was based on freedom from persecution, freedom of religion, and the granting of God-given rights. The failure to expose them to American exceptionalism, in favor of a grievance-based nation, will create citizens who are unfamiliar with and ungrateful for their own national history and identity.
Peter Wood says, “Our national memory is slipping” and that “almost every item in the APUSH picture of recent history seems to argue for one side of a dispute.” (NAS.org, 7-1-14)
For example, the APUSH framework section about the Great Depression (Key Concept 7.2) states that students will be taught:
Although the New Deal did not completely overcome the Depression, it left a legacy of reforms and agencies that endeavored to make society and individuals more secure, and it helped foster a long-term political realignment in which many ethnic groups, African Americans, and working-class communities identified with the Democratic Party.
Peter Wood says:
This sounds like the voice of the Democratic Party itself. It simply sets aside the numerous economists who argue that the New Deal prolonged and deepened the Depression and that its legacy of ‘reforms’ fostered patterns of dependency and the arrogation of extra-Constitutional powers to the federal government. (NAS.org, 7-1-14)
David Coleman: Architect of Disaster
David Coleman, an unelected individual who is not a standards expert, historian, or educator, has brought Common Core to most states, has dumbed down the SAT test, and now has changed what the brightest students will learn about their nation.
Coleman and the College Board are also striving for “inclusion,” or opening courses to more students. This waters down AP courses and leaves advanced students — those for whom the classes are intended — bored. Some estimate that approximately half of those who now take APUSH are not capable of successfully completing the class. This has negative fallout for students who are qualified and leads to the same sort of lowered standards as the watered down College Board SAT exam. Critics contend that lowering standards is David Coleman’s talent; he did the same thing with Common Core.
The new APUSH framework is based on popular education theory that de-emphasizes dates, and ignores key documents and people. It adheres to the theory that students can “look up” such details. It’s the same philosophy that has students failing to memorize math facts because they can use a calculator for such details. In history, this leads to a lack of chronology and a resultant failure to comprehend historical progression.
The Framework also suggests APUSH students become what they call “apprentice historians.” Peter Wood explains the problem thus: “How can a student acquire the sensibility and tools of a historian without first gaining a fairly full grasp of historical narrative? We generally need a context before we can plunge deeper into analysis and re-consideration.” Wood says the revisionists’ real aim is to make students into “skeptics.” (Minding the Campus, 8-19-14)
Testing Is Paramount
To suggest that teachers can add to the framework, or teach students a differing viewpoint in areas with which they disagree, is naive, disingenuous, or an outright lie. The AP U.S. History exam is keyed to the College Board’s framework, not to details that a teacher can retract, change, or clarify. It is a curriculum in the same way that Common Core is a curriculum. Teachers will teach to the tests. They must do so in order for students to succeed on the APUSH test. The nearly half a million students who take the APUSH course every year will learn nothing that is not included in the framework and in order to pass the exam will need to regurgitate the flawed material. This is a radical departure from the former APUSH five-page guideline and more even-handed exam questions.
For many students, APUSH is the last U.S. history course they will take. It is at least the last course before taking specialized college courses taught by college professors, many of whom fully support the idea that America is an oppressor.
Even if a student wants to take more American history, those courses are often limited. Colleges’ history courses tend to be specialized and often grievance-based, looking at history through the filters of race, sex, and class. For example, students at Bowdoin College will find the only course on World War II is “Women on the Homefront.”
Don’t Mess With Texas
We can’t expect academic historians or college professors to come to the rescue of U.S. history. They are the source of many of the attacks on the greatness of America.
But changes may be ahead. In September, the Texas State Board of Education passed a resolution to formally request that the College Board correct what is wrong with the new APUSH course. Texas represents a full 10% of the College Board’s AP market, so they have clout with the College Board. Texans are troubled by the bias exhibited in the new course and by the fact that the course violates state law about what must be taught in U.S. History courses.
In August, the Republican National Committee issued a resolution that points out some of the problems with the APUSH course and exams. Their suggestion of a one-year delay while the situation is investigated seems a logical solution for all concerned.
History Repeats Itself
Many believe the APUSH course is a new attempt to create National History Standards, which were defeated in 1994.
Proponents of the revised APUSH framework suggest that its critics want to return to the history taught to their grandparents, which in some cases whitewashed the past. But, Peter Wood rightly suggests that, in teaching about historical events, there is plenty of room to cover it all, both “the triumph and the tragedy.” It is equally wrong to only teach students about missteps made in the past and ignore the good. A whole generation of students might never learn the good things about the nation if they are only exposed to the bad.
Sneaky, back-door attempts to control student outcomes need to end. The National Review reports that APUSH teachers who were given a look at the new exam were told to remain silent. “Those teachers have been warned, under penalty of law and the stripping of their AP teaching privileges, not to disclose the content of the new sample AP U.S. History exam to anyone.” (7-10-14) This sounds remarkably similar to teachers of Common Core being told not to discuss it with parents and that any public criticism would result in official reprimand. Is this the way we want American education to proceed?
If other states summon the courage to confront the College Board as Texas has done, this problem can be easily resolved by reverting to the previous five-page APUSH outline that does not impinge on states’ rights to determine their own curriculum. The College Board would also need to offer tests that don’t require students to regurgitate leftist propaganda and, instead, demonstrate a sound understanding of American history.